Happy New Year!
As we welcome in 2019, this year has a lot in store. The world’s largest democracy (India) will hold general elections, and Brexit’s official date looms in March. The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team will look to defend their World Cup title in France this summer. The final season of Game of Thrones premieres in April, and the Star Wars saga finally concludes in December (except for the dozens of spin-offs). Oh, and let’s not forget the royal baby coming this Spring!
Here at TJP, we wanted to offer you a list of some of the top Catholic events to look forward to in 2019. Get out your calendars and add the following:
1. SEEK 2019 (January 3-7 in Indianapolis)
In two days, well over ten thousand young adults will gather in Indianapolis for the SEEK Conference hosted by FOCUS every two years (in 2017, this five-day event attracted 13,000 participants). FOCUS is a Catholic collegiate outreach program that sends recent college grads in teams of four missionaries to 150+ college campuses to lead Bible studies and engage the faith of students.
This year’s theme for SEEK is “Encounter Something More,” and includes daily adoration, confessions and Mass. There are keynote speakers, including FOCUS founder Curtis Martin and bestselling author Dr. Scott Hahn, along with breakout sessions and musical entertainment from artists like Matt Maher.
2. MAG+S: Central America (January 11-21)
MAG+S is a Jesuit-sponsored event for young adults in preparation for World Youth Day (see next entry). The program began in 1997, when Jesuits invited young people from colleges and parishes to join in a pilgrimage before WYD in Paris. It took the name “MAGIS” in 2005, and it continues to be organized by the local Jesuit province where WYD is being held.
This year, the Central American Province is hosting MAG+S under the theme “Your Word Transforms.” Participants will spread out across five countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama) for a week of immersion experiences with local communities. To conclude, all the pilgrims will convene in Panama for a closing festival of nations and a shared Mass with Fr. Arturo Sosa, S.J., the global leader of the Jesuits, before joining in the events of WYD.
3. World Youth Day: Panama (January 22-27)
World Youth Day (WYD) is a global encounter with the Pope which is celebrated every 2-3 years in a different country. Thousands of youth journey from across the world to participate. Along with a walking pilgrimage, catechetical sessions and evening festivals, the event is highlighted by the presence of the Pope, who leads an overnight vigil and a closing Mass.
This month, Panama will host WYD – the first time the event has come to Central America. WYD is traditionally held in July or August, but January is a more fitting time for Panama and other Latin American countries that begin their school year in February. The theme this year is “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). WYD offers a striking encounter with the global church and a chance to celebrate Mass with Pope Francis!
Speaking of Pope Francis, he has a full travel schedule for 2019, including two early trips to Muslim nations. In February, he will travel to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) to participate in an international interfaith meeting. While the official religion of the country is Islam, nearly 90% of the population are citizens from other countries, including a sizable group of Christians.
Then in March, Pope Francis will visit the cities of Rabat and Casablanca in Morocco. Unlike the U.A.E., the Catholic population is a meager 0.1% in Morocco with an estimated 21,000 Catholics. The Pope’s agenda hasn’t been set, but it will likely focus on Christian-Muslim relations and migration.
5. Worldwide Meeting of Bishops on Abuse Crisis (February 21-24 at the Vatican)
In a year marked by damaging news stories, one of the many surprises came in mid-November when, just hours before their meetings were set to begin, the Vatican told the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to delay voting on measures to hold bishops accountable in the sex abuse crisis. The reason for this last-second interjection (and public relations nightmare)? The Vatican wants the Church to move together in its response.
Thus, all eyes will be on the Vatican in late February when the presidents of all Catholic bishops’ conferences (114 across the globe) will convene for a worldwide meeting on the abuse crisis. Let’s hope this brings some of the sweeping reforms that are still needed in light of the news stories of 2018.
6. Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (March 21-24)
Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Religious Education Congress (RECongress) is the largest annual gathering of Catholics in the U.S. Last year, over 36,000 people participated in the four-day event held at the Anaheim Convention Center. The RECongress is split into two parts: a youth day on March 21, and then three days for adults from March 22-24.
The Youth Day theme for 2019 is “Trust! God’s Gotchu” and brings together high school youth for liturgy, workshops and entertainment (like a mini-WYD!). The theme this year for the adult days is “Thirsting for Justice” and offers a remarkable 200 speakers in over 300 workshops (a mix of English, Spanish and Vietnamese), plus entertainment, concerts and daily liturgies.
7. Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region (October at the Vatican)
For October, Pope Francis has convoked a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region. Unlike “general assemblies” that draw from episcopal conferences across the world, “special assemblies” are limited to a certain geographical area, and participation is limited to those directly involved, in this case, the nine countries in the Amazonian region.
This will be just the second special assembly in the Americas, and the first special assembly since 2010 (on the Middle East). Expect the Synod to have an ecological focus with particular attention given to indigenous populations.
8. Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (November 16-18 in Washington, D.C.)
Held annually in Washington D.C., the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) is the largest Catholic social justice gathering in the U.S. The Teach-In brings together roughly 2,000 participants from the Ignatian family (mostly Jesuit high schools and colleges, but many more, including TJP readers!).
The first two days of the Teach-In feature keynote speakers, breakout sessions, prayer and liturgy. Booths are set up outside the event hall, where you can find the smiling faces of TJP staff and pick up free swag! And don’t forget to catch Fr. James Martin, S.J. for a selfie! On the final day of the event, groups head to Capitol Hill to meet with representatives in Congress to advocate for policy changes, like immigration and criminal justice reform.
If those eight events aren’t enough to satiate your appetite, here are a few other events that might be of interest:
- Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (February 2-5 in Washington D.C.)
- Catholic Answers National Conference (September 26-29 in San Diego)
- National Catholic Singles Conference (October 25-27, 2019 in Nashville)
- Young Catholic Professionals Conference (September TBD)
- Ignatian Yoga Retreats (May 31-June 2, 2019 in Chicago; August 9-11 in Atlanta; October 25-27 in Los Altos, CA)